A Guide to Second Date Sex
Alexandra Roach, George MacKay
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Those who have a taste for rom-coms, or just those who like relating to people in films, for better and for worse, should definitely check this one out.
Earlier this year, Aussie audiences were greeted with the film Eighth Grade, a coming-of-age drama that took a weirdly specific and under-represented demographic within that genre and, through an uncanny understanding of human emotionality, crafted a story that gave viewers of all ages something to relate to. While A Guide To Second Date Sex may not be focused on the same ideas of social isolation and growing up, it is also a film that takes a weirdly specific and under-represented aspect of its own sub-genre, this time with rom-coms, and turns it into something that is sure to give audiences all kinds of cringe.
Of course, that might make the film out to be far more painful than it actually is. It definitely gets squirmy, but unlike a lot of mainstream cringe comedy out there, it’s less from being uncomfortable at what’s being said and more because it’s difficult to figure out what one is even supposed to say in the first place.
Indeed, for Alexandra Roach’s Laura and George MacKay’s Ryan, both back in the dating game after a tough break-up, the story largely consists of them drowning in their self-consciousness, working only on the advice of the varyingly uninformed on how this is ‘supposed to’ work out.
First dates are a common rom-com scenario. Second dates, not so much. A situation where you have previous experience with the other person, but not enough of it to be clear on what their intentions are.
Born from writer/director Rachel Hirons’ stage play of the same name, most of the story takes place in Ryan’s apartment, the close-up framing putting the audience in the same awkward proximity as the main characters. There are very few cuts to be found, save for the transitions between their first date and their current position, meaning that we get to see all of the struggling to find appropriate glasses for port, the last-minute grooming, and the bonding over what they think Jennifer Aniston smells like, all in close-enough-to-real-time.
It makes for a refreshingly relatable offering, built more on genuine human interaction as opposed to working through clichés. But where it gets interesting is when the apartment gets a bit more crowded and one of the exes gets involved.
Artificially raising the tension in this matter is when the clichés could have started flooding in… but instead, it’s couched in the same confusion over what the right social cues are.
Basically, it compares real life with the fabricated reality found in most rom-coms, and the result is much like what preceded it: Cringe that gives way to crippling fits of laughter. Those who have a taste for rom-coms, or just those who like relating to people in films, for better and for worse, should definitely check this one out.